The life of a soldier in the trenches during World War I was unimaginable to the people back home in Canada. Soldiers carried out their duty to their country in the most horrifying conditions. The trenches were rivers of mud and blood, food rations were very basic and designed only to keep the soldiers alive, hygiene was non-existent, and military direction was poor as these men fought for their country. Constant shelling and gas attacks made many soldiers feel that death was imminent and a great deal of men suffered from mental breakdowns due to the war.
During World War I soldiers spent most of their time involved in trench warfare. A typical day in the trenches began at night when the sentry was relieved and replaced. This individual was responsible for watching "No Man's Land"� and reporting changes to the man sitting with him. The companion of the sentry would then inform the platoon officer about changes in "No Man's Land"�. Men in the trenches at night sat around telling stories, smoking cigarettes, and writing home. It was too uncomfortable and crowded to sleep wearing all their ammunition and clothes. When a soldier did doze off he was likely to awake startled as a rat passed over his face. When morning finally came rum was issued and then breakfast was served. The soldiers would try and sleep in the morning and then have dinner at 12:30pm. Four o'clock was teatime and then it was night again. The days of the soldiers were filled with idleness if the men were not involved in combat.
Every four days the soldiers were relieved from the trenches and sent to billets for four days of rest. A typical day in the billets would see the soldiers getting up at six o'clock, washing, taking part in roll call and inspection, having breakfast, and then participating in drills with the company at 8:45am. At around 11:30am the soldiers were dismissed, had dinner, and were then on their own for the rest of the day if they had not signed up for a "digging or working party"�. During the soldier's four days of rest they were sometimes ordered to visit the "Divisional Baths"�. The "Divisional Baths"� contained a bathroom with 15 tubs (barrels sawed in half) half-filled with water and containing a piece of laundry soap. The men were told they had twelve minutes to take their baths and then the water would be turned off even if the men were still soapy. After their baths the soldiers were treated to clean underwear and sent back to the billets.
The conditions that the soldiers had to deal with while living in either the trenches or billets were inhuman. Men in the trenches were surrounded by the horrific smell of death. Soldiers killed in the trenches would lie unburied for months and when they were eventually buried they had "hardly enough earth over them to conceal their clothes"�. In some cases the dead were only covered by chloride of lime or became unearthed by shells. There were so many dead soldiers that eventually "collection points"� were set up to collect the bodies. Wounded men in the trenches were given little time to recover and were then sent back to the front lines. Shelter from gunfire was hard to find. Sometimes the soldiers hid in holes with no overhead cover and when it rained the holes would fill up and the men would be flooded out. Even the trenches were waste deep in mud when it rained hard. The rain soaked everything including their clothes and their rations. Rats constantly scurried through the trenches and lice plagued the soldiers.
The soldier's equipment was heavy and poorly made. An ordinary pack was heavy to start with and even heavier when the soldiers were told to pack machine guns and ammunition. Bad shoes gave a lot of soldiers painful blisters. Their boots were so badly made that their toes stuck out and the holes had to be patched up with newspaper or cardboard.
Moving from one area of engagement to another was very difficult. This was usually done at night and many soldiers got lost in...
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